Please read Luke 1:26-45
Reflexively, my mind turned toward Christmas. I thought of the freshly snow-blanketed landscape I’d left behind in the early morning darkness a few hours earlier. I thought of the light displays popping up on neighbors’ houses which occasionally broke through the darkness and of those unboxed in my own home, waiting for me to carve out a few hours (after this trip!) to get them hung. My mood lifted and I smiled in spite of the tiredness I felt from the earlier-than-usual start to my day. I thought of Christmas carols – and then I realized I was hearing Christmas carols. Walking through the airport, I soon encountered the source of inspiration: a player piano sat in a corner of the terminal lobby, sharing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” to anyone who would receive its joyful greeting.
The piano was ideally located just inside the security check-point, contrasting the anxious hurry up—wait that seems to come mandatory with air travel. Having some time, I grabbed a breakfast sandwich from a nearby restaurant, found a seat nearby, and I just sat. Ok, I tried to catch up on some email, but the airport wi-fi wasn’t having it. So I sat, and ate, and people watched, humming along, at times, with whatever gift the piano presented. “Deck the Halls” came next, followed by “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” Soon it was, “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and “Let it Snow.” And then the piano offered “Ave Maria.”
Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Benedicta tu in mulierbus,
Blessed art thou among women,
et benedicta fructus ventris tui, Iesus.
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Setting beautifully to music the Hail Mary (the prayer, not the football play), its opening lines join together the annunciation of the angel, Gabriel, to Mary (Luke 1:28) with Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary upon her visit a few verses later (1:42). Both of these women – one young, the other “in her old age” – received remarkable news from an extraordinary messenger in the midst of what we believe were otherwise ordinary lives. Set apart perhaps only by their faithfulness, neither Mary nor Elizabeth sought or expected what they received, yet both accepted Gabriel’s message in faith. Their lives were changed in those moments, and with them, the whole world.
This Advent season, how are you preparing for the familiar and the surprising? Will you be ready to respond with the faithfulness of Elizabeth and Mary? Are you prepared to accept a message that changes your life?
God you are full of surprises. In this Advent season, we know that the Word comes again, comes to us still. Yet in our busyness and the hurry up—wait of our lives, it is easy to forget until Christmas day is upon us. May we make the time to slow down, to just sit, even, and to open ourselves to the blessings and the surprises of this season. Whether your word comes to us as bold proclamation or subtle musical messaging, may our ears be open to receive it. May our hearts be open to accept it. May our mouths be open to share it. And may our lives be opened to proclaim, in faithful word and deed, the good news of Jesus’ birth, reflecting the light which shines in the darkness for all the world.
Rev. Josh Baird
Director for Disciples Volunteering and RTT Co-Chair